Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.

Saint Jerome

S North
E-W ♠ K Q 10 9 2
 K 7 6
 Q 9 4
♣ A K
West East
♠ 7
 Q 8 4
 7 5 3 2
♣ J 10 9 7 5
♠ 4 3
 J 10 5 2
 K 10 6
♣ 8 6 4 3
♠ A J 8 6 5
 A 9 3
 A J 8
♣ Q 2
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 NT * Pass
3 NT Pass 4 ♣ Pass
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 ♠ Pass 5 NT Pass
6 ♠ All pass    

*Game-forcing spade raise


After North drives to game in spades, and South shows extras and no shortage, then looks for a grand slam before settling in six. Slam is made more difficult by the fact that the side-suits are perfectly mirrored in the two hands. Switch the diamond four in North’s hand to the club four, and the grand slam would hinge on a finesse. As it is, though, declarer appears to be poorly placed. What can you do about the fact that you have an inevitable heart loser and a likely diamond loser?

The club jack opening lead goes to the ace. Declarer draws trumps with the ace and king, then cashes the club king and both top hearts before exiting with a third heart. Whichever defender wins this trick, they must lead diamonds. If the diamond finesse is right, then West must win the trick, since a low diamond lead from East around to the queen would clearly be hopeless for the defense.

However, no matter which defender has the diamond 10, the contract is still cold, since declarer puts in a low diamond from dummy when West shifts to a diamond. East can put up his king or withhold it, but declarer can play diamonds for no loser.

This line simply needs the diamond king to be well-placed.

Note that if declarer leads a diamond to the jack before exiting in hearts, that line would result in defeat. West would be able to win the third heart and shift to diamonds, and the defenders would collect a trick in diamonds.

In this auction, the range for the one-no-trump response is wider than it would be if your LHO had passed over one spade. The point is that your partner would probably pass rather than bid one no-trump with scattered values, such as a balanced 5- or 6-point hand. I would look favorably on my spade spots and bid three no-trump.


♠ K Q 10 9 2
 K 7 6
 Q 9 4
♣ A K
South West North East
1 ♠ Dbl. 1 NT Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieAugust 16th, 2018 at 11:07 am

Hi Bobby,

Today’s hand (like yesterdays where 3N struggled despite many HCPs) shows how points can be ineffective or wasted e.g. the 9 points in clubs being worth only 2 tricks. Your 3N on BWTA may work well if partner is at the top end of their bid or if partner holds the SJ (even singleton) and has his / her bid, especially as the location of the outstanding high cards will be largely known. Even at pairs, 3N seems reasonable.

I recall Geoff Rubens suggesting that SQ10x HAxx Dxxx Cxxxx was often a better hand if partner opened 1S than the same hand with the majors reversed as the SQ10 are guaranteed to be working opposite 1S, but HQ10x may be of less use or even waste paper. Points, schmointz as somebody said.



bobbywolffAugust 16th, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Hi Iain,

To only imply that what you say is of significant value is simply an underbid. The secret of success at bridge bidding, is a combination of matching up the increasing value of intermediates (Q10x) opposite length rather than relative shortness.

However, where the luck comes and goes is when, because of the limited space, duplication of distribution, in clubs (a practical impossibility for almost all to determine during the bidding stage) plus, of course the complete mirror distribution turns a hand from an almost certain straight finesse for a grand slam into a very slightly below 50% small slam.

Add that to the need for excellent declarer play, just to achieve that below average small slam (much worse without the nine of diamonds, a likely impossible card to adequately appreciate, on declarer’s side) and it speaks to the story of, to the glory of, our magnificent game.

Sure, and no doubt, that over the course of a multitude of bridge sessions, the immutable and ever present law of averages will mightily contribute to at the very least, bless a very good bridge team to be the eventual winner, but when one considers the wide range of different types of expertise necessary to compete at the highest level of worldwide competition, plus the partnership familiarity required to even have a ghost of a chance, then, and possibly only then, can a connoisseur of quality, safely predict who will be the winner. Yes, narrowing it down to only a few is the easy part, but predicting the exact order of finish would be almost as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

And even that attempt gets almost impossible when other intangibles, legal or not, enters through a back door to what I hope and pray to goodness will totally and unequivocally phase completely out.

Yes, points schmoints (at least much of the time) “Marty Bergen”, need to fall in line down the list, but let a combination of remarkable talent, dedicated work ethic, and intense winning attitude as well of course, as superior overall pure thought in the form of top drawer bridge ethics represent who finishes on top.

I guess that special combination of events might have to be in the form of “Heaven Can Wait”, but all of us should never give up on it happening, just a little sooner.

Thanks Iain, for your above special contribution.

Bob LiptonAugust 16th, 2018 at 2:18 pm

A well-constructed hand. Placing either Diamond honor in West’s hand would enable the defenders to wiggle out by having west dump the Heart Queen. Of course, as things stand, the lesser but game player would sigh and take the double hook.


bobbywolffAugust 16th, 2018 at 4:42 pm

Hi Bob,

Definitely yes, a hand where a lesser than high-level player would get lucky and think it his due as a deserving player to be successful.

The good news with that is that sometimes that is true, but what makes it so difficult to learn to improve is that player would be unlikely to learn what he should have done better, that is, unless he has an inquiring mind
and sought out the truth and, even more challenging, from where he could find it.

Thanks Bob, for writing with your practical application.

David WarheitAugust 16th, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Bob and Bobby: No, putting the D10 in W’s hand will do the defense no good, thanks to that lovely D8 in declarer’s hand. And putting the DK in W’s hand makes all strategies irrelevant.

bobbywolffAugust 16th, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Hi David,

Yes, again your eagle eye proves your analysis, but you’ll no doubt agree that, instead of that 8 of diamonds having to be with declarer, the right line of play is worth choosing, just in case the internal diamond spots were less favorable.

However, just because of your role as enforcer of accurate analysis, I need to never underestimate how difficult it becomes to even begin to ignore your advice.

Lucky I have no trouble dealing with constant kudos to you.